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Goodbye, Chief Hogle…

Longboat Key Chief of Police, Al Hogle, rings in the holiday spirit last fall.

 

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The impact of Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle’s fatal crash while motorcycling in the mountains of North Carolina has left not only friends and family mourning, but a community grieving and giving voice to that which made Hogle a friend, mentor and leader.

Testimony as to how many lives Hogle touched is the fact that a public memorial will be held at 1 p.m. next Thursday, May 24, at Robarts Arena.

And Robarts Arena is fitting for a man who may have ended his career as chief on Longboat Key, but spent years as a patrol officer in Sarasota before going undercover as a member of the narcotics intervention team. Add to that SWAT team member, Bradenton Police Chief and City of Sarasota Mayor and the circles grow and overlap.

And Hogle’s strong connections and the fact that he maintained relationships made him an asset that Longboat Key will miss.

Town Manager Dave Bullock used Hogle as a go-to resource.

“Hogle was very active regionally and he used those relations to help the Town out. That extensive network was very valuable and I could turn to him with really any issue or kind of policy always added something of value,” said Bullock.

But for Bullock and many others, Hogle’s most definable asset and quality was the calmness and even-handedness and classy behavior he brought to most any and every situation. Despite working with narcotic abusers and dealers, police unions, politicians and the public, Hogle always diffused situations.

“He was extraordinary with citizens and could work issues out without escalating. I always admired that he could bring an assurance and civility to all issues,” said Bullock.

 

Strong character emerges

It was Hogle’s strong reputation that led to a lunch between himself, former Town Manager Bruce St. Denis and Former Fire Chief Julias Halas.

St. Denis said it was 2002 and the three met at the Colony Dining Room facing the Gulf. At the time, Hogle was Bradenton Police Chief and yet still St. Denis wanted to hire Hogle.

St. Denis said he asked Hogle to talk about what kind of chief the Town should look to hire. St. Denis asked Hogle how he thought the town should structure its police coverage. Then he asked Hogle what kind of town a top-flight candidate would want to work for and what it would take to secure such a candidate.

By the end of the lunch, St. Denis made clear to Hogle the job was his if he would accept. Hogle said that if he were not working in Bradenton, he would take the position.

St. Denis recalls: “We never advertised at all for the position. He had dinner with his wife, Leslie, and a couple of days later he called and said he wanted to work out here and he accepted the job. I never even entertained another candidate. That was the confidence I had in him.”

That confidence St. Denis had soon translated into strong relationships within Town Hall as well as with his officers and the community.

 

A personal interest

Retired Longboat Key Major Martin Sharkey credits Hogle for pushing him to succeed and advance his own career. He also spoke of Hogle’s commitment to the details of the lives of all the officers.

“He was not your regular administrator kind of guy,” said Sharkey. “He knew who you were and your family. He wanted to know what was going on in their lives. He would push and foster employees he thought could go somewhere.”

When Sharkey went to the FBI academy, Sharkey said he planned on taking the minimum coursework and just squeaking by.

“Hogle said, ‘do not just go, but really learn something and make something of it,’” said Sharkey.

“He wanted me to be a chief; he wanted me to succeed,” Sharkey added.

Fire Chief Paul Desi will miss his daily 7 a.m. talks with Hogle. Inevitably, Desi would walk across to the Police Station and the two spent about a half hour talking about the work and in general.

Desi always envied that Hogle could accomplish as much as he did while appearing calm and collected. In fact, Desi said he never once heard Hogle use a disparaging word or get emotional. He misses already how Hogle would call a difficult situation “nutty” or “nonsense” when he wanted to describe something displeasing. In other words, Hogle was a rare gentleman in a business known for harsh language.

 

Hogle’s loves

Hogle’s calm, controlled demeanor was not merely a work affect that fell off when he was of the job or at home.

And while as is typical in law enforcement he kept his personal and family life out of the spotlight. Close friends said he always spoke more excitedly when he would go out on a “date” with his wife, Leslie, than he did about his love of motorcycles and racing — and that says a lot.

He could be seen at Harry’s wine tastings with Leslie chatting and holding hands or at Longboat Key dinner parties. And even though he was excited as a boy looking forward to Christmas to be heading to North Carolina for his annual motorcycling with his friends, he told Sharkey that it was the “date” with his wife before leaving that was the best part of the plan.

As is now general news, that trip last week cost him his life when he slid off the wet mountain road and struck a tree. And the accident in North Carolina appears just that — a piece of wood in the roadway that created an unexpected situation Hogle could not control.

The problem may have been the rain and fog, which regularly occur in that part of the mountains, according to park rangers. The portion of the parkway where the accident occurred winds through the mountains at 5,000 feet above sea level and is a narrow, two-lane road.

According to Hogle’s fellow riding companions who were behind him and witnessed the accident, Hogle crossed the double-yellow line and basically went straight through the curve. Then he looked as though he had successfully corrected his error, but skidded off the road onto the shoulder, hitting a downed tree, which was not visible from the road due to the fog, and was ejected.

According to the park rangers who responded to the scene along with the EMS, attempts to revive Hogle were not successful, despite the low speed he was traveling and the fact that he was wearing his helmet and racing leathers

 

Fast forward

And yet what on its face seems a senseless death and accident, one cannot sever Hogle’s deep and committed passion for motorcycles, powerful engines and the precision necessary to control a vehicle at high speeds from the rest of his personality.

Hogle loved to ride his Red Ducati Streetfighter motorcycle often three or more times a week on the south-end of Siesta Key from his Magnolia Street home near Sarasota Memorial hospital. He would turn around at Turtle Beach and go home.

Hogle was serious rider. He reportedly was a safety nut and drove the speed limit. As in his professional life, he calmly could control a major engine force.

Town Finance Director Tom Kelley said he hit it off immediately when he realized Hogle was all about fast boats, motorcycles and racing.

“On one hand he was so conservative,” said Kelly, “But Hogle ordered a Camaro ZL-1 with a 560 horsepower engine. He waited six months. And he got the brightest yellow and black paint job. He loved speed. Last year he and friends rented am old airstrip in North Carolina and they wanted to see how fast the Ducati would go.”

Kelley explained that after his first run of 125 MPH, Hogle signed up to go 150 MPH, but the day rained out.  Kelly said Hogle signed up subsequently to do that run in Ohio.

Every year, Hogle would go to the Gator Nationals Drag Racing and he would go VIP. He loved drag racing and Formula racing said Kelley.

And Hogle would bike the Key with Kelly after work — always with a helmet said Kelley. In fact, Kelley said Hogle was in such good physical shape that few thought of him as a 63-year-old.

Hogle told friends that he was abandoning a never-ending hotrod restoration project he worked at for years when he ordered the Camaro. In fact, Hogle could repair and work on any part of his car or motorcycle. His father was a mechanic at Mercedes Benz when Hogle was growing up and Hogle stayed close to tinkering with engine performance. But when he ordered the Camaro, he told Kelly he was glad because it had 10 airbags and air curtains.

And Hogle liked to go fast on the water.

Sharkey remembers Hogle’s Hobie Cat at the Sailing Squadron.

“He would get a wetsuit on and get on the Hobie and get upset it was not fast enough. Then he bought this tiny 12-foot Hobie with a huge sail and it was light and extremely fast. In the winter when the storms came in he would get in wetsuit and get out and zip across the bay,” said Sharkey.

Sharkey said Hogle talked about that 560 horsepower Camaro “feverishly. He was not happy unless his hair was on fire. He was a speed fanatic.“

But then Sharkey added that he always had a calm, reassuring professionalism no matter what he was doing.

 

Steady through and through

Sarasota Police Sergeant Jim Henderson had known Hogle more than 20 years and was one of his closest friends. He was with him when Hogle passed. For Henderson, he is familiar with how Hogle always exhibited a steady hand and a calming influence. But Henderson said that was Hogle through and through.

“He was just very solid and reassuring and comforting — a great friend and a great person. If you had a problem you could go to him.”

And Henderson is still in awe of how Hogle was balanced and could keep all aspects of his life on track.

“He never took credit for what he did and took responsibility for any problems. I was honored to know him,” said Henderson.

 

• • •

Hogle leaves behind his wife, Leslie, a recently retired registered nurse, who resides in Sarasota, and his mother, Norma Hogle who lives in Bradenton, and his daughter, Sandy.

Memorial Services will be on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. at Robarts Arena located at 3000 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota, FL 34237 followed by a 3:00 p.m. ceremony at the Sarasota National Cemetery located at 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL 34241.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Police Athletic League (www.sfapal.com), Meals on Wheels (www.mealsonwheels-sarasota.org), Shriner’s Hospital (www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org), All Faiths Food Bank (http://allfaithsfoodbank.org) and Angel Flight (www.angelflight.com).

 

Cumming named Acting Chief

Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock named Capt. Pete Cumming as the interim Longboat Key police chief on Tuesday and said that he will evaluate as that progresses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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